Attention!
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation

Revelation 16

Verses 1-21

III. STUDY NOTES--Revelation 16:1-21

THE SEVEN BOWLS are closely similar to the 7 seals and the 7 trumpets in that they affect the same things. But the destruction that followed the seals and the trumpets was limited to one third for they were given as warnings pleading with men to repent. The destruction that follows the pouring of the 7 bowls is complete on the enemies of God. These are "the last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is ended." (15:1).

1. THE FIRST BOWL 16:2 IS POURED ON THE EARTH

As boils plagued Egypt (Exodus 9:8-11), so the moral and spiritual disease which has been an INNER corruption and decay in those who have worshipped and bore the mark of the beast now find that inner putrefaction breaking OUT on the surface of life. The quality of the inner life is bound to reach the surface at last.

2. THE SECOND BOWL 16:3 IS POURED ON THE SEA

This and the next bowl reminds us of the turning of the waters of the Nile into blood. (Exodus 7:17-21). If "the sea" is taken to mean nations as stated in 17:15, then this means that materialism, worldliness, kills all that is wholesome in the life of the people. It corrupts national life.

3. THE THIRD BOWL 16:4-7 PLAGUE IN THE RIVERS

There is "blood in the rivers and the fountains of water." The rivers that feed the sea are polluted--that is, all the powers and influences which are the springs of national life are corrupted. When the press, T.V. and radio, education, propaganda, literature become so polluted as to poison national life we will she this third bowl. Verse 6. This is just what men deserve. The prophets referred to are probably prophets of the church (see 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11). Verse 7. The Christian martyrs are depicted as being under the altar (6:9). They praise God for His judgments.

4. THE FOURTH BOWL 16:8, 9 PLAGUE FROM THE SUN

Men are scorched by the sun. The sun has power to BLESS with life, giving heat to promote life. But the sun also has the power to BLAST. In this fourth bowl the life-giving heat becomes torturing heat. Men whose burning passions had brought moral undoing burn with a fire that brings agony. It is true that Jesus is "The Sun of Righteousness," and that those who reject His blessing will find their own pride scorched and burnt.

5. THE FIFTH BOWL 16:10, 11 PLAGUE ON THE BEAST’S KINGDOM

The center and throne of worldly power is smitten with darkness like that on Egypt (Exodus 10:21-23). The kingdom of evil is "the kingdom of darkness," whilst God’s kingdom is "The Kingdom of light." (see 1 John 1:6; 1 John 2:11 ; Colossians 1:12-13 --"You have been translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light of His Son"). This fifth bowl brings darkness over earthly wickedness. None of the activities of life can go on. Yet, "they did not repent." To live at all man must have seas, fountains, sunshine and health. When these all turn against you life has become hopeless. In Revelation 16:10-11. All is darkness.

6. THE SIXTH BOWL 16:12-16 PLAGUE WHERE THE WORLD IS IN CONFLICT WITH GOD

"The sixth angel poured his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the East." There are many interpretations of this bowl. We are free of course to differ. We state one possible interpretation. "THE GREAT RIVER EUPHRATES" was the boundary separating the people of God from Babylon. (Genesis 15:18) IT STANDS FOR THE BOUNDARY SEPARATING GOD’S KINGDOM FROM THE WORLD. This sixth judgment causes the river Euphrates to dry up as God caused the Red Sea to dry up (Exodus 14:21), and the river Jordan (Joshua 3:17) so that God’s people who are in Babylon can come out of her (18:4). If we look at the verse in this way, "The kings of the East" may be the remnant of God’s people in Babylon (the city of confusion, godlessness and worldliness), and are distinguished from "the kings of the earth" in verse 14. Another view is that these kings of the East are the worldly kings who make war on God’s kingdom (17:14). Both may be referred to here. This verse is quite certainly a reference to a famous event in history. When Cyrus the Persian conquered Babylon he did so by drying up the river Euphrates which actually flows right through Babylon. When Cyrus came to Babylon her defences seemed so strong that her capture seemed impossible, but by a feat of engineering Cyrus temporarily changed the course of the river upstream into a lake. The channel of the river through Babylon became a dry road through which the invaders marched. This is referred to in Jeremiah 51:36. If we look at this verse in this light we can see it as a threat of God’s judgment on all worldliness. Babylon will be defeated. The drying up of the Euphrates becomes a picture of the deliverance of God’s people in the world and also a picture of the defeat of worldliness. Verse 13. THE THREE FOUL SPIRITS which come out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet could be described as the PRIDE of Satan, the HOSTILITY of worldly power, and the FALSE THINKING of the false prophet. These are described as "like frogs." What an appropriate picture! The croaking frog--a picture of the unclean, empty-headed, continuous, monotonous and plague-bringing propaganda of the world. What a picture of the world’s criticism of the church! Verse 14. These frog like demonic spirits gather "the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty" "And they assembled them at the place which is called in Hebrew Armageddon." (verse 16). It is important to note that this baffle and warfare is Spiritual. This is the conflict of the kings of the world against God. (Psalms 2:2; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 20:7-10). ARMAGEDDON. Armageddon is the mountain of Megiddo. It is in the plain of Esdraelon in Galilee, the high tableland surrounded by hills which was the great battlefield in Jewish history. The fortunes of kingdoms had been decided there. There Barak defeated Sisera (Judges 5:19-21), there Ahaziah and Josiah were slain (2 Kings 9:27; 2 Kings 23:29-30), there, there had often been great mourning (Zechariah 12:11). Some limit the meaning of the word "Armageddon" to this place, but we are not forced to limit this huge conflict to this small place. This small place would not hold even a small modern army. This small battle-ground is raised in meaning. IT BECOMES A SYMBOL OF DECISIVE CONFLICT. "Armageddon" is a type, not a locality. John uses the place "Armageddon" to symbolise GREAT DECISIVE CONFLICT in much the same way as we use the word "WATERLOO" to signify decisive defeat. It is well to remember that "Armageddon" signifies DECISIVE CONFLICT WHICH IS SPIRITUAL (NOT PHYSICAL).--It describes the overthrow of spiritual evil by Almighty God--not material battles with guns and bombs; human battles and bloodshed never settle matters regarding right and wrong. "Armageddon" is the REAL battle between God and evil, and it is going on now. It is not the picture of material armies on a material battlefield. We thank God that at Calvary evil met its Waterloo. There remains much "mopping up" to be done. We know that the final conflict will be terrible for the forces of evil as described by John in this passage.

7. THE SEVENTH BOWL 16:17-21 PLAGUE IN THE AIR--THE SHAKING OF THE WORLD

Verse 17. "The AIR" is regarded as the domain of Satan (Ephesians 2:2) God said "It is done"--The end of sin and suffering is at hand for the last of the plagues is come. Verse 18. The whole of nature becomes at war with sinful man in "A GREAT EARTHQUAKE." Verse 19. In this great earthquake "BABYLON"--the symbol of worldliness and godlessness is split into three. It lost its power of cohesion. There is no uniting power in evil. The effects of the earthquake are wide-spread, cities fall, islands and mountains disappear. There is only one kingdom which cannot be shaken--the Kingdom of God (see (Hebrews 12:26-29). Christians have realized this truth time and time again when the proud kingdoms of this world have been shaken--as in the fall of Rome, the collapse of the feudal system, the agrarian revolution, the industrial revolution, the French revolution, the Communist revolution, the fall of governments and civilisations. There is only one kingdom which cannot be shaken--The Kingdom of God. "Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou, who changest not, abide with me." The kingdoms of the world go by, in purple and in gold. They rise and flourish, and they die, and all their tale is told. One Kingdom only is divine, one banner triumphs still Its King--a servant, and its sign--a Cross upon a hill.

IV. MEDITATION--; Revelation 16:1-21

The seven bowls of judgment are symbolic pictures to tell us this truth--that if man sins against God, then the whole universe becomes man’s enemy. While the seven bowls describe evil as being destroyed everywhere Christians need to heed THE-WARNING GIVEN BY GOD HIMSELF IN VERSE 15.

"Lo I am coming like a thief! blessed is he who is awake, keeping his garments, that he may not go naked . . ."

1. We must WATCH

--Lest we become indifferent
--Lest we become merely nominal church members
--Lest we fall away from Christ.

We must watch for every opportunity to serve Christ--for every opportunity to serve our fellow men.

2. We must KEEP ON THE GARMENTS WHICH CHRIST GAVE US

--The garment of Salvation

Isaiah 61:10

--The garment of Righteousness

Isaiah 64:6

--The garment of Praise

Isaiah 61:3

--The garment of True humility

1 Peter 5:5

--else others will see our shame, for our own righteousness is only as filthy rags.

Verse 15

ONE OF THE SEVEN BEATITUDES OF REVELATION

3.

"Blessed is he who is awake, keeping his garments" (Revelation 16:15). Previously we listed the garments Christ gave us as: Salvation Isaiah 61:10 Righteousness Isaiah 64:6 Praise Isaiah 61:3 Humility 1 Peter 5:5

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Norris, Harold. "Commentary on Revelation 16". "Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/nor/revelation-16.html. 2021.